Growing Up, Calming Down, Covering Ground

Going large, or at least larger than we had already been going, had certainly been on the table for our work-free September.  It seemed wasteful not to use the free month to take the kind of massive trip you always dream of taking but can never make work logistically.  But ultimately… that’s kinda what we’re already doing. 

It took us a while to realize this as we meandered through discussions of two weeks in Thailand or Bali or Tahiti or a slow drive through southern Germany and the Swiss Alps.  Those had been enticing possibilities, entertaining to imagine in the abstract, but a few iterations of doing even the most basic logistical calculations – Flights? Accommodations?  Rental cars? Oh, and where do we park Davista while we’re gone? – made us realize that interrupting our once-in-a-lifetime-trip to do a once-in-a-lifetime trip was redundant, and an expensive redundancy at that.

So I grew a beard instead.  Sort of, at least.  Had to do something with my time off.  I decided a little too late in the month to really give it a chance to fill in, and never quite got past the itchy stage.  Frankly I’m not sure how anyone gets past the itchy stage; it drove me freakin’ nuts.  But clearly they do – in 2018 every self-respecting hipster, about half of our pro athletes, and a significant chunk of the remainder of American males sport ZZ Top facial hair or something aspiring to be, so probably it’s just me.  I also discovered that mine is both grayer and more leprechaun-ish than I’d prefer.  So likely a good thing that I have the excuse that my profession doesn’t allow them to fall back on.

At any rate, we settled comfortably into the idea of just extending our summer and cruising the California coast once we realized that we were under no obligation to push the envelope on our wanderlust.  And the month wasn’t entirely work-free, either.  As it turned out, Tacco had a Navy commitment mid-month in Chicago, which would have been inconvenient to reach from Thailand.  As an actively drilling Navy Reservist, she is expected to fulfill the normal one weekend/month & two weeks/year commitment at a minimum, but her Unit allows for flexible drilling, which has allowed her to do most of her drilling from the road.  Most but not all; certain commitments require her to be physically present, and this Chicago stint was one of those commitments.

Consequently, after Leavenworth we traversed the Cascades once again, this time on highway 2 over Stevens Pass, which I believe to be the second prettiest Cascades crossing after highway 20 to the north, and headed south to Issaquah, about as near to SeaTac airport as we could camp.  It wasn’t the nicest campground, but RV parks in the middle of cities often aren’t, and at least we had a pear tree drooping with ripe fruit in our site.

Here was our route south. It’s long — tough to see any detail here.

We dropped Tacco off at the airport in the morning and headed south, on a beeline back to my parents’ house in Alamo, CA.  The drive was pretty, if nondescript.  Lots of trees.  We followed the Columbia River for a bit before hitting Portland, drove the length of Oregon’s Willamette Valley to Eugene, then entered the forest in earnest until we petered out in Grant’s Pass for the night, setting up camp beside the Rogue River.  I said lots of trees, but one thing that did stand out about southern Oregon is the extensive logging.  I’m certainly a fan of wood, particularly in a house, but sometimes it’s a little too easy to imagine it comes from Home Depot rather than a forest.  I don’t want to overstate this – Oregon is still gorgeous, and is in no danger of going the way of the Amazon rainforest, but it’s interesting to see the checkerboard pattern our appetite for lumber leaves on the landscape.

Off again in the morning, we crossed into California near Mt. Shasta, which never ceases to be impressive, as any 14,000’+ mountain that stands all by itself would be.  Descending into California’s Central Valley, we realized that our interesting scenery was now behind us, and ground out the rest of the drive to my parents’ driveway.

After a few days’ rest, some solid family visitation time punctuated with good food and wine, and a Tacco retrieval from the airport, we headed south again, this time to Big Sur, and the segment of California’s Highway 1 that we had previously missed due to last year’s landslide.  The road had recently re-opened, with a new path that took it around the new bulge in the shoreline, and we were excited to check out that stretch of coast.

Before that, though, check out how cute Woodsprite is doing her math schoolwork with her little Turkish towel drying her hair.

We were right to be excited, it turns out.  That drive is iconic for a reason, and should be seen by everyone on a sunny day at least once, as far as I’m concerned.  Absolutely breathtaking, with curve after curve revealing vistas that keep you gawking, face pressed to the window, for hours.  Or it would if you weren’t driving, which I found inconvenient.  It was actually difficult to concentrate, which is not an option while steering Davista + Toad around the hairpin corners. 

I mentioned long ago that we’ve given up on trying too hard to get the kids to appreciate scenery, as their attention spans combined with the allure of their various screens tend to make our attempts to get them to actually, you know, see our country an exercise in frustration.  So we point things out when we can, they look up and say “cool!” and that’s the end of it.  We’ve become ok with this.  But this drive was different.  Firebolt in particular was transfixed by the cliffs plunging into the sea and the huge waves below breaking on the offshore rocks.  This made me happy.

After a few stops for photos, we pulled up to a campground along the Big Sur River about a third of the way down that stretch of coast.  After setting up camp and doing some more river wading, a recurring theme during this stage of our trip, we drove down to Pfeiffer Beach to do a bit of exploring.  Again, stunning.

One of the features on this particular beach was the purple sand, which reminded me of what we saw on the shore of Lake Superior way back in our first month of our travels.

But it wasn’t just the sand, it was the cliffs, the caves, the waves, the wind, everything. 

The kids are doing incredibly well right now.  It’s difficult to ascertain what exactly brings on these moments, but as any parent can tell you, it is deeply, profoundly satisfying to see your kids exuberant.  It’s been simmering for the past day or two as they’ve relaxed into the reality of our continued travels, but for some reason in Big Sur and especially at this beach it seemed to boil over in all three of them at once.  We ran around on the sand and then just stopped to watch them when we couldn’t keep up.  Keeper climbed a huge sand slope that was pushed up against the cliff, then did it again, then invited me to come up with him and take some selfies, which of course I did.  Full smiles aren’t something we see much from him these days due to self-consciousness about his teeth, one of which simply isn’t there, causing several of the others to come in crookedly due to its absence.  He will definitely require significant orthodontia, and has requested it come as soon as possible.  And it will.  But here on the beach he was as un-self-conscious as could be – just happy.

It continued back at the campsite. After making little rafts out of sticks and racing them in the current, the kids found a rope swing hanging over the water and decided to make good use of it, despite the brisk temps. 

At one point Keeper turned to me and talked about how excited he was for everything that was in store for him/us over the next several months.  I think his actual words were “There’s so much to look forward to!”  He has not said that before. Again, almost impossible to overstate how satisfying it was to hear such a sentiment from my twelve-year-old eldest son, particularly with my persistent concerns about possible negative effects on the kids stemming from our doubling our travel time.  Perhaps he sensed that.

What I really think is happening, though, is that he’s growing up.  I looked at pictures of him at the beginning of our trip and had the predictable reaction.  He was a kid, and now he is not.  He’s taller than we are, has a deepening voice and facial hair, and, well… here we go!  I’m far from the first parent to ask for the brakes to be slammed on this whole process, in fact I think we all do it at some point.  But that doesn’t make the feeling any less acute.  I love who he’s becoming, and I love even more that I have the opportunity to spend this much time with him while it happens.  But can’t it slow down just a little?

Unfortunately we had budgeted only one day of our time in Big Sur, and set off to see the rest of the coast in the morning, on our way to Morro Bay.  I would have liked to stay.  While there have been portions of our trip with greater flexibility to tweak itineraries, this was not one of them, as we had a string of reservations at completely full campgrounds on the coast, culminating in our return to Coronado and its Navy beach cottages.  Even one extra night somewhere would break the entire chain and leave us looking for the nearest Wal-Mart parking lot.  So onward we pressed.

The views remained spectacular, but began to mellow out a bit the further south we traveled.  One thing I had forgotten about that stretch of road is how high above the water it climbs in places.  I didn’t check our elevation, but just from professional experience, having spent many, many hours at various relatively low altitudes above the ocean, I estimated that we were nearly a thousand feet up at times. 

Near San Simeon we stopped to check out an elephant seal rookery, which, to save you from having to look that word up like I had to, is a place where they hang out in a big group and breed.  Elephant seals are interesting creatures, and surprisingly fun to watch.  The males, with their long, dangling snouts (hence the name I suppose), do a good bit of sparring, though most of them just hang out, make grunty noises, and use their flippers to toss sand over themselves.  Evidently it cools them off.  If it were me I think I’d opt for a dip in the chilly water instead, but what do I know…

I also spied what I could have sworn were a few zebras grazing alongside the road.  Wait, zebras??  Yes, that’s what I said, as did my family, who initially didn’t believe me, but this being 2018, in which wondering about things is obsolete, we went straight to Google and discovered that yes, William Randolph Hearst did indeed bring zebras, as well as other wild animals, to his San Simeon castle and ranch, where they still roam to this day.  So I saw zebras.

We pulled into Morro Bay late in the afternoon, and topped off the day with Firebolt taking a respectable spill off of her bike and skinning both knees as well as a bit of her palms.  Not how we wanted to end things, but she’s a trooper and joined us for a hike along the bay at sunset after a bit of initial TLC. 

That’s a lot of ground covered, both in the past few days and in this post.  Fortunately I think, our drives will get shorter and less frequent during this next phase, as we stay West and choose our excursions carefully.  We do have much to look forward to – another month and a half of summery lolling on the beach, time with my parents, skiing…. Keeper was absolutely correct.

Das Re-boot

Aaaaand we’re off again. 

Though technically our journey has been continuous, there’s a real sense in which we’re now starting over, and we’re feeling that acutely.  First of all, it’s a new school year.  Keeper is starting 7th grade, and Firebolt and Woodsprite are starting 4th and 1st, respectively.  More significantly, though, Anacortes was where we initially intended to end our travels; we really didn’t have a master plan to go further.  What came after was and remains a big blank spot on our family calendar.  Lastly, we spent much of the past month and a half deeply engaged in closing, at long last, the previous chapter of our lives.

After toying with several potential versions of September’s travel plan (one of which involved going all the way back to New England – and I’m going to be honest, that one gave me an instant headache), we opted to take Highway 20 east over the Cascades and then head south from there.  Highway 20 is the most scenic of the roads that cross the Cascades, passing several deep, glacial lakes and serving as the gateway to North Cascades National Park

North Cascades has to be one of our most remote national parks.  As far as I know, no roads, or at least no paved ones, reach into it; it’s all jagged, glaciated peaks and wilderness.  Even the Visitors’ Center is outside of the park boundary.  I was surprised, when capturing the above map screenshot, that it wasn’t even marked.  I had to zoom in to even get Google Maps to acknowledge it.

We only did a short visit & hike there, probably more accurately a stroll, but with the fall colors just starting to kick in, it made for quite the scenic stop. 

Further in our drive, I was struck once again by stark difference between the eastern and western sides of the Cascades.  More than any mountain range I know of, it truly wrings out the vast majority of the eastbound Pacific storms’ moisture – the transition from lush green to high desert brown happens almost immediately at the line of peaks and passes.  The weather changed dramatically for us, too.  We had already transitioned mostly to long pants, fleece, and flannel back in Anacortes and La Conner, but as soon as we crossed the mountains the sun came back out and the temperature rose 10-20 degrees. 

Our first overnight was on the Methow River just south of the town of Twisp.  Our goal was the faux-Bavarian town of Leavenworth, where we’d loll about for a few days, but the drive was a bit longer than we wanted, so Twisp it was.  I’m always happy to camp riverfront.  It’s a tossup for me whether river or ocean sounds are more relaxing at night, but lately I’ve been leaning river. 

Eastern Washington is also apple country, and apple season was just on the verge of kicking in.  In general we’ve found that Fall is, straight-up, the best season to do this RV traveling thing.  One of our original guidelines was to “chase mild weather,” and what we discovered during the planning phase is that pretty much everywhere in the country, with the possible exception of Florida (still too hot) and the “green” parts of the Pacific Northwest (tending toward cold and wet already), are at their absolute peak in September and October.  In any case, deep relaxation was what we were after and that’s precisely what we found.

The next day we followed the Columbia River downstream to the South and made a turn to the West back into the Cascades, where Leavenworth sits at the bottom of a steep valley.  It’s extremely picturesque.  The Bavarian theme came about in the mid-’60s as a ploy to revitalize the town’s economy after a railroad was moved and logging wasn’t thriving. The idea to “theme” the town actually came from Danish-themed Solvang in California, where we put Woodsprite into a giant clog and managed to avoid eating æbleskivers last Fall. Though arguably cheesy, the plan unarguably worked, as Leavenworth has become quite the year-round tourist destination. Not our normal cup of tea, but frankly, a few days of large German beers, sausages, and oom-pah bands sounded therapeutic. Who doesn’t like Bavaria?

Uncharacteristically, we drove into town without a camping reservation, assuming that its being midweek and slightly off season, we’d find something walking distance from the dolled-up Main Street and would sleep to the sound of distant accordions. What we found instead was a riverfront wonderland just outside of town.

Leavenworth itself turned out to be somewhat of a bust.  We ventured in on the first evening to sample the atmosphere and wares, and found ourselves a little put off by the borderline tackiness of it all.  We did sit down at a communal bench in a biergarten for some wurst, but… I don’t know, it just wasn’t that good. The sausage wasn’t especially tasty, and the meal as a whole was far heavier than anything we’ve been eating. It didn’t strike me as particularly German either. Even the beer was so-so. And all over-priced.  Perhaps we just picked the wrong restaurant, but the Gemütlichkeit never quite caught on, and though Firebolt did make a point to inform us that she was very happy with her meal, we returned to our campsite that night pretty certain that we didn’t need to come back into town.

The campsite though, WOW.  Yet another riverfront site, but this time the river in question (Icicle Creek) was a stunner.  Crystal clear, shallow, rapid, and strewn with smooth boulders which begged to be hopped upon.

The advertised wi-fi was essentially useless (common occurrence a RV parks, incidentally) and furthermore we had only the grainiest of 4G cell phone signals, and that caused a bit of tension in the kids. This, too, however, turned into a positive. The kids know nothing of a world without a connection to the internet, and I’ve mentioned previously how I’m both disturbed by that fact and perplexed about how to ensure that this lack-of-connection anxiety doesn’t become normalized.  So after the initial grumbling about no signal, it was both a relief and a thrill to have the kids not only forget about the lack of phone coverage, but ask, on multiple occasions, if they could stop school for a bit and head out to play in the river.  Yes.  YES!  By all means, get out there.  I’ll join you shortly!

There was lots of river play.  Rock stacking, dam building, races involving rock-hopping in the middle of the current…

And then in the evening we decided to set up a mini-soccer field using some cones and play a family soccer game.  How have we not done this before now?  This was exactly the type of scene I envisioned when I imagined our journey at its most ideal – the whole family heading back sweaty and laughing to our RV by the rushing river in the mountains, having been forced to end our soccer game because it got too dark to see.

We really needed this.  Or at least I did.  Between the stress of finally closing on the Maryland house, the decision to double our on-the-road time, and the corresponding uncertainty about pretty much everything, I’ve been chronically anxious.  For quite some time.  If our time in La Connor allowed me to step back enough to articulate it, then this stretch of days allowed me to step even further back, or perhaps better said, to zoom out and view the whole thing from altitude.  I don’t have a clue whether we’re making the right call, but I’m easing back into the belief that such a thing doesn’t exist, and looking forward to what’s in store for us.

The plan that is gelling is this: Spend the rest of September and most of October on the California coast, then spend November + the Winter bouncing between my parents’ house in the SF Bay area and southern California, from which I can (for once!) drive to work, given my impending transfer back to the Long Beach / Los Angeles pilot base.  Take several family ski trips – as many as we can muster.  And then come Spring, return to Washington to put our Anacortes house on the market, buy a house in Bend, and settle next summer.  Maybe bag a few more National Parks in the meantime.  This is far from a bad plan.      

A Year – Updated

Things that were supposed to happen:

  • We’d be done with our travels at the one year point.
  • We would be settling into our new house, in a location we had painstakingly chosen, by Summer 2018.
  • Davista would be up for sale by Fall 2018.
  • We would blog nightly, astutely capturing what living on the road with a family looks and feels like.

These things have not happened.

The first three have been pushed back by various periods of time, the last we adjusted our expectations about in an effort to nudge them toward reality.  The first three for what we fervently hope are excellent reasons, the last due to a combination of poor prioritization, the fact that we’re just playing at this writing thing, and no small measure of laziness.

Here is a map of our one-year progress.  Overnights in red, significant stops in purple. 

One year - Sat

Plan Moon is in effect, which means we’ll be doing this for another year. As the traveling will slow down, I suspect that the blogging will too, though we’ll attempt to cover highlights, major developments, and general thoughts. I’m hoping to do some summation at the end as well, as we tend to get similar questions from folks, and we do have answers, or at least we’re getting them. We’ve learned a lot.

By the way, we’ve been asked, and yes, we do have a page with links to all of our old posts, sorted by time and geography. It’s up at the top menu, or here — Geographical / Chronological Archive

Islands, Volcanoes, and Crabs

Our immediate future figured out (ha!), we got back to playing.  Labor Day weekend was a wash due to my having to work, and that had always been a huge get-out-and-do-things time for us when we were Pacific Northwest residents, so we pushed it to Labor Day midweek instead.

First on tap was inflation of our kayak flotilla, which hadn’t seen nearly enough action over the past year. We boarded them to venture out to Hope Island. Like the vast majority of the San Juan islands, it is uninhabited and inaccessible by road or ferry, but this one also happens to be a Washington State Park.

This is the type of water exploring we missed in Maryland, even though Annapolis is by all accounts a boating mecca.  Secluded beaches on isolated islands, clear water, sea life… they’re everywhere in Washington’s waters.  In Annapolis we found it more to be about the boating itself than the destinations.  Sailing reigns, and we had a motorboat.  Our Maryland boating career had ended abruptly one warm afternoon well over a year after we had spent far (FAR!) more money than the boat had initially cost us getting it towed across the country, stored someplace suitable (much more difficult/expensive than it sounds, or ought to be in a self-proclaimed boating town), and in good enough working order to run for 15 minutes without overheating.  Within a few minutes of our victorious departure from the marina into Chesapeake Bay, standing tall at the helm and puffing out my chest, Keeper turned to me and asked “so…uhhh… what do we do?”  “Well…” I had to think about it for a moment. I wasn’t entirely sure. This part of the evolution had been theoretical up to now. “I guess we cruise around here, maybe look at some of these houses from the water, and then find someplace to dock for lunch?”  His deflated answer: “That’s it, huh?  No islands, no beaches? In that case, do you mind if Firebolt and I just go down below and take a nap?”  A split-second calculation involving future gas, maintenance, and storage money, compounded by time and stress involved in boat ownership, flitted across my transom before I turned the boat around and headed directly back to the marina, to no objections from the kids.  It was up for sale the next day. 

Back to Washington, though.  It’s a sea kayaker’s wonderland, and even has established “water trails” as well as the more well-known hiking trails.  Hope Island is a stop on one of the more popular ones. It was a short journey and easy paddle from our campground, but the currents in the San Juans can be brutal.  On the way back the tide was coming in, and we had to aim about 45 degrees to the left of the point to which we wanted to land.  That’s quite a crab.  (aviation-speak again).

The following day we opted for a hike up at Mt. Baker, or “Mountain Baker,” as Keeper used to call it.  Baker is the furthest north in the chain of volcanoes that dot the Cascades mountain range, and is just a few miles south of the Canadian border.  In the winter snowboarding reigns supreme, and I believe it holds the record for the most single season snowfall at a ski area ever.  I remember that year – they actually had to dig out the lifts.  But in the summer, it’s all about hiking.  You can drive to Artist Point near the top of the ski area, which gives you access to some absolutely spectacular hiking trails.  Hiking in the Cascades is different than hiking in most US mountains in they are so jagged, are glacier-topped year round, and rise up from near-sea-level river valleys.  Most hikes involve steep switchbacks to get up to near the tree line, but then you’re rewarded with views of glaciers, ice-fed lakes, and knife-edge ridges.  Artist Point is one of the few Cascade trailheads which starts at a relatively high elevation (avoiding the switchbacks), and has several trail options.  We opted for the Chain Lakes loop, which we had done once pre-kids but with two puppies. 

Though there was still lingering smoke from the various Pacific Northwest forest fires, the views were still awe-inspiring.  We traversed a steep ridge to a saddle, where there was a snow field on which to run around and toss snowballs.  Not bad for September.  The kids got a kick out of the stories of our puppies running around on this same snowfield and ending up at the bottom after not being able to get any purchase. 

We then descended into a valley with several lakes & stopped for awhile. 

Our kids have never shied away from cold water, and ribbing from their siblings tends to push the “I dare you to…” game deep into polar bear zone. 

Tacco and I sat back and watched from the comfort of our sunny rock while the kids happily froze themselves in the clear water. 

I wish we could have stayed longer, but as often happens on these day trips, our leave-home time had been delayed by family inertia, and we found ourselves in a bit of a race against the lengthening shadows.  Wouldn’t want to get caught up here at night without the proper gear. 

Rather than complete the loop, which would’ve taken longer than we had daylight, we turned around and retraced our steps.  Impossibly, the ridge traverse appeared even more dramatic in the late afternoon / early evening, and we managed to catch sight of a white mountain goat clinging to the rocks well above us.

We rounded off the day with a few group pictures and then headed back to camp to prep for tomorrow’s departure. 

So here we are… a year in but about to do another year, a month of playing in the mountains and on the beach ahead of us, and hopefully a full ski season after that.  Shoot, maybe at some point we’ll even find a house to live in.  Though the overarching unease still lingers, it’s hard to summon up any angst when I look at the upcoming few months the way I just described them; we truly are fortunate to be doing this.  It’s a good thing to remind yourself.   

And Now?

When we bought Davista, one of the many shiny objects dangled in front of our overwhelmed faces was a free Thousand Trails membership for a year, to include 30 nights at any TT campground within a certain region that we would later get to select.  Unlike many of the other shiny objects (extended warranties, discounted accessories we would “absolutely need,” RV-safe toilet paper…), this one was free, so we signed right up.  Though we knew nothing about the company or the campgrounds, our membership did come in handy in the northwest, both in Bend (Sunriver actually) and here in La Conner, which sits right across the water from Fidalgo Island and Anacortes.

We opted to burn the rest of our free nights with a two week La Conner stay.  The Sunriver campground had earned mixed reviews from us.  It seemed well-appointed, but not especially well-maintained.  La Conner is similar.  The setting is gorgeous, as would be just about any Puget Sound waterfront campground.  But… something was off.  What was it?  The facilities maybe?  A little too mossy and neglected?  The clientele?  A little too permanent?  Difficult to say. 

We did enjoy it, as it was quiet, relaxing, and fit our mood, which could be described as coming down from gobsmacked.  With Annapolis and the house sale freshly behind us (save for a frustratingly lingering dispute over a refrigerator that we should’ve handled before closing) and the reality of Plan Moon’s new year of travel ahead of us, we felt a bit unmoored, or at least more so than usual.  Adding to that was the quiet of late summer/early Fall.  School was starting without our kids in it, the weather was cooling, leaves were changing colors… we had quite a bit of walking along the rocky beach time to talk things over and try to figure out what on Earth we were doing.

Bonus: if you read the post about Seattle and remember my extended digression on an unconventional work trip I flew, you’ll remember that I said it came into play later.  Well here’s how… essentially that all took place during the time I was bidding for my September schedule.  That’s all submitted and processed via computer, and evidently something about the way that trip was encoded interfered with its ability to award me a schedule for September.  I’ll spare you the intricacies of what happened between my bidding and the final result, but ultimately I lucked into a once-in-a-career-if-ever paid month off.  Yes.  September off, for pay, no vacation time deducted. 

So along with figuring out what exactly to do with this extra year of travel & homeschooling for the kids (and the attendant uncertainty that we’d made the right call), we had a month of no commitments whatsoever to play with.  That’s a lot of strategizing! 

I previously mentioned an impossibly cozy restaurant in La Conner at which Tacco and I had, on several occasions, dug in over cider and stouts to work out our lives.  We returned.  Unfortunately we discovered that they had moved to a waterfront location, selling their original building to another restaurateur.  Quick dilemma – is it the restaurant we need for the planning-our-lives vibe or the location?  We opted for the location.  Good call, we think.

I’m not going to say we figured it all out.  But we did put a sizable dent in it and managed to gain at least a bit of control of the rudder.  We started big with the free month thing, reasoning that this was an opportunity we’d likely never have again.  So… Thailand?  Munich for Oktoberfest?  Normandy?  Head back east to New England, which we’d missed before?  Or maybe better to just slowly make our way down south as planned, but take advantage of the fact that we wouldn’t need to be anywhere near an airport all month.  We figured we’d get some input from the kids as well since, you know, they’d be going with us. 

And as far as everything else – the staying on the road, homeschooling for an extra year, doubling our travel time.  I think more than anything else we, and by “we” I mean “mostly I” needed to just chill the heck out.  My overarching concern with this entire endeavor is that we give our kids a unique and valuable experience without ruining them.  Emphasis on the not ruining them part. And yes, that’s overstated, but missing 6th grade is one thing, missing most of middle school/junior high is another.  Also, roadschooling is different than homeschooling. Homeschoolers who are staying in one place tend to connect with a network of other homeschoolers and pool their resources. In our case, it’s just us. Our kids are troopers and quickly sought out the positives once we told them we would be staying on the road, but they made no secret of their preference to get back into school and start interacting with other kids their age again.  And frankly I don’t know how well we’re doing with their education.  They are ahead of the game in math and probably a few other subjects, definitely so with respect to life experience, but I don’t have a clue what I was learning (and they might be missing) in 7th/4th/1st grade.  I suspect that, just like life in general, there’s a lot of “playing well with others.”  They’re not getting much of that, other than with each other.  This is the call we made, though, and Tacco did a great job of teasing out all the ways that this will continue to be just as, if not more, valuable than our being settled somewhere.  I knew all this, but having her say it was helpful.  Tacco and I both experience and express our concerns in very different ways. She’s an ocean and I’m a river. There are things to be concerned about, sure, but there always are. In the grand scheme, we’re doing fine. We plan to spend quality time with my parents, we plan to use our Epic Passes to do a whole lot of skiing, and we plan to use our time to further refine our choice of where to settle.  It’s going to be a great year.

Back in La Conner at the campground we spent some more time lazily playing on the beach with the kids and reading them into our plans, as well as getting some more input.  Ultimately we decided to spend our September checking out parts of the Washington Cascades and then rolling back south via California’s highway 1, which had been closed last year due to a landslide.  The Coronado Beach Cottages had been a highlight last year, and I managed to get us another reservation there.  So rather than doing a crazy overseas thing, we’ll extend summer.  Nothing wrong with that.

Thousand Trails had a few more interesting experiences in store for us as well.  This one we’ll file under Interesting Neighbors.  The sites at this campground were pretty heavily wooded, just as the one in Sunriver had been, so we were mostly isolated from our neighbor to the north, but we couldn’t help but notice his multiple projects-in-progress as well as his seemingly cobbled-together rig.  It appeared he had been parked for a while.  At a certain point he strolled into our campsite and asked us if we smelled anything interesting.  Not a question we get a lot, but we answered honestly:

“Well…. yeah, I guess we have.  You mean the weed?”  

“Oh no, not that, that was me.  I mean something like rotten crabs.”

“Hm.  Well, no, but we’ll keep our.. uh.. noses open.”

“Yeah, please do, because I think the people who stayed there before you caught some crabs, cleaned them, and then just threw them into the woods, and it’s stinking up the place, and that’s pissing me off if so.”

Later:

“You know we did smell what you were talking about, but didn’t see any crab carcasses in the woods.  I think it might just be the smell of low tide coming off the water.” [spoiler: that’s exactly what it was]

“Oh no, that’s not it, it’s crabs.  You’re not pissed off about this!?! Cuz let me TELL you, I’m a TT platinum [or something] member, and if this doesn’t upset you then… *storm around storm around storm around*… I oughta get that guy kicked out of Thousand Trails!! *mumble mumble storm into RV and slam door twice*”

The next day, after more cannabis clouds wafted through our site:

“Good morning!  Hey, have you ever read this book?” [Shows me about a 1000 page tome on American History]

“Don’t believe I have, no.  Good morning!”

“Well man, you gotta read this, it’ll blow your mind, I’m telling ya!  Here!” [hands me his book]

“Ummm.. thanks, I mean we’re leaving in the morning so I don’t see how I’ll have time to –“

“No man, c’mon, take it!  Just check it out before you go, you can just leave it on my table when you’re done!”

“OK. Sure.  Thanks!”

So… though we appreciated the free camping this year, we decided not to renew our Thousand Trails membership.